I’ve never seen a Rambo film. Not one. No Jason Bourne films, no Terminator films, not even James Bond. I’m just not into stories that revolve around weapons and fighting and military (or military-like) conflicts.
The same with my reading. I’ll read political and military thrillers if pressed, but they aren’t my books of choice. Not that there’s anything wrong with them – they just aren’t my cup of tea.
Then there’s Myke Cole.
Myke is the author of the Shadow Ops novels, a military sci-fi/fantasy series that chronicles the military response to supernatural occurrences. I haven’t read the first trilogy in the series (Control Point, Fortress Frontier, Breach Zone), but I did jump in on the first book of the second trilogy: Gemini Cell, which was a prequel to the original trilogy – that felt like a pretty good place to start. I really enjoyed this story of US Navy Seal James Schweitzer, killed in a covert action gone bad and re-animated through pairing his enhanced body with the spirit of an ancient, bloodthirsty warrior. In abstract it sounds fantastical, in Myke Cole’s capable hands, it is harrowing, absorbing, and queasily feasible.
Gemini Cell introduces us to Jim Schweitzer, his family and his resolve, and the top secret government organization that tries to control him. (Read my LitStack review of Gemini Cell here.)
Javelin Rain is the next book of the second trilogy, and if you thought Gemini Cell was action packed, it is nothing compared to the mayhem in Javelin Rain. Jim is now on the run with his wife and young son; but the threat he poses to the government if he exposes the Gemini Cell project is immense (the powers that be liken him to a WMD – a weapon of mass destruction), and the orders are to either bring him in or utterly destroy him regardless of the cost.
There is no sugarcoating it – this book is bloody and violent and visceral. Jim may still be human, but the other super-soldiers created by the project who are hunting him are not; once unleashed, their focus on destruction doesn’t equivocate target versus bystander. As the collateral damage mounts, factions within the Gemini Cell project are exposed, and the question of morality – black, white and gray – at first a point/counterpoint that becomes less tenable as the action progresses, proves to be a breaking point in more ways than one.
What keeps this book from utter carnage are the relationships built between the characters, especially the continuation of the strong bond – and the unabashed love story – between Jim and his wife, Sarah (and in contrast, with the introduction of the new sorcerer, Dadou Alva, who is all sorts of terrifying, allowing the existing sorcerer, Jawid, to look almost benevolent in comparison). These relationships make the darker tone of this novel easier to endure – and makes the heartbreaks all the more devastating.
Good stuff, if you can stomach it. Definitely well written, imaginative, riveting and, yes, thought provoking. If you’re looking for an action packed novel that will get your blood pounding as well as stimulating your brain, with kick ass players (literally) and some mind boggling magically enhanced military tech, look no further than Javelin Rain. Even a peace-loving beatnik like me couldn’t put it down… even though I was gripping the book with white knuckles most of the time.